Edwards River Park, a 564-unit housing project, gets initial approval from Eagle County
EDWARDS — Eagle County is willing to consider a plan for a nearly 600-unit project in west Edwards, but the developer will have to work out some traffic, building mass and other issues before the proposal can proceed.
On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Eagle County Commissioners unanimously approved the sketch plan submitted by developer Keith Novick for a project called Edwards River Park. The proposal calls for a mixed-use residential and commercial development located on a 104-acre parcel of land located 0.7 miles west of the Edwards village core. Neighboring parcels are primarily residential development and open space. The Eagle River Preserve open space lies to the east, Interstate 70 to the north, South Fork Meadows to the west and Lower Homestead to the south. The parcel is a former gravel mining site.
The Edwards River Park proposes 565 multifamily dwelling units, 15,000 square feet of mixed use and 5,000 square feet of service commercial/community support uses. Novick said the initial phase of the plan would include a day care center, public transportation hubs, play fields and approximately 20 acres of public trails and parks.
“At this stage, they are just asking for basic concept evaluation,” said Eagle County planner Sean Hannigan at the onset of the Tuesday hearing.
Novick, a former Memphis attorney and real estate developer who has been a resident of Edwards for nearly six years, said he envisions “a diverse, sustainable, inclusive community with quality, attainable living as the core focus.”
“This is one of the last significant developable parcels in Edwards,” Novick said. With that noted, however, he said the site does present challenges. There are wetlands along the property, and the site sits roughly 60 feet below the grade of U.S. Highway 6 because of the gravel mining operation.
“We are trying to work with what God and B&B Excavating have given us,” he said.
What the county needs
Novick said Eagle County’s own housing study provided the concept for the Edwards River Park plan. He noted that study indicates a pressing current and future need for middle-income, local housing.
“This area is flush with second homes,” he said. “The idea was to start work on something the county needs, the county wants and is economically viable.”
Novick said early estimates for the Edwards River Park units indicate that townhouses at the property will sell in the $600,000 to $650,000 range and condos will sell between $400,000 and $550,000. He envisions a roughly 60/40 split of rental and for-sale units at the overall project.
He believes his Edwards River Park proposal represents a more economically viable option than the previous concept for the property.
In 2009, the county approved a different sketch plan for the property. That plan, called Eagle River Meadows, included development on both the north and south sides of the Eagle River. The original design included a vehicular bridge across the Eagle River, a school site and an amphitheater. This north side development highly impacted wetlands and riparian areas, and parts of the project were located within the 100-year floodplain. In response to referral comments from Eagle County staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, Eagle River Watershed Council, Colorado Geological Survey and the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, Novick chose to revise the sketch, removing all development from the north side of the parcel and focusing the development outside of wetlands, riparian areas and the 100-year floodplain.
“Every time I discuss this project with individuals and groups, it seems to be well received,” Novick said. “I am not concerned with demand.”
At this stage of the development approval process, thorny issues associated with a plan are identified, but solutions to those issues are not detailed. For Edwards River Park, the hurdles include how to handle the additional traffic on U.S. Highway 6 and the impact of tall, multifamily buildings on the site.
Novick said he is aware of the challenges and pledged to work with staff to solve them.
“I intend to maintain my fingerprint on this project,” Novick said. “I like to drive by a project I have done and be proud of it. This is something I am very excited about.”
The Eagle County Commissioners expressed guarded enthusiasm for the Edwards River Park concept.
“I don’t see any fatal flaws at this point. I do see some significant hurdles,” Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said.
She applauded Novick’s outreach to various referral agencies who have commented about the proposal.
“It is important to understand everyone’s perspective on the property,” McQueeney said.
“I also think you are going down the right path with this. This is where (residential) density should be,” Commissioner Jill Ryan said.
Ryan urged Novick to reach out to the county’s housing department to beef up the affordability component of the plan, noting without strengthening that part of the proposal, both the developer and the county would be missing an opportunity.
“We are very aware of developers having a hard time making it work with the cost of land. We are not trying to create a situation where nothing can be built,” Ryan said.
With his concept for the property approved, Novick said he will proceed with the detailed preliminary plan for the project.
“I don’t see that being completed before the summer. I have learned I would rather not push these things,” Novick said.
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